No longer considered commercial suicide, protest music can actually be profitable. Don't think for a second that Rage Against The Machine took a bath on its massive reunion tour last summer.
Whatever Rage's motives for getting back together, there's no doubt the band's pockets have been sufficiently lined, and now, Zack de la Rocha can retreat to Central America and join some rebel uprising against a puppet dictator propped up by the U.S. government (I think we still do that sort of thing, don't we?), knowing his finances are secure.
Forgive the cynicism. It's hard to resist taking pot shots at Rage when they so clearly love standing on the pulpit and preaching to the choir — and believe me, this is coming from someone who leans as left as they come.
But, this post isn't about Rage Against The Machine. It's about State Radio, Rage's quieter, more reflective, ally in the agitprop war against the Bush Administration, and man, does State Radio's Chad Stokes have it in for the First Family. The fiery, punk-fueled "Guantanamo," off the band's sophomore effort, Year Of The Crow, is not only a rundown of George W.'s war crimes, it also skewers the Bush family on its shameful Indian rights record — evidently, President Bush's grandfather, Prescott, excavated Geronimo's skull in 1918 for the express purpose of having his secret society at Yale rub it at initiation ceremonies. How's that for politically incorrect?
Halliburton, Darfur, the West Memphis Three — if Public Enemy was the CNN of the black community, State Radio is at least the Air America of indie rock. Touching on a number of hot-button issues, Stokes' passionate polemics are best delivered in white-hot rockers like "Gang Of Thieves." Though State Radio lacks the fury and flat-out speed of Bad Brains, on Year Of The Crow, Stokes and company move through reggae workouts "C.I.A." and "Sudan" with skillful ease, before high-stepping their way into the horn-fueled, ska frenzy of "Barnstorming."
State Radio is a diverse musical melting pot, and while Year Of The Crow provides plenty of food for thought, it doesn't seem to provoke the fist-pumping activism that Rage does. But State Radio doesn't go all in for explosive, balls-out punk or metal. Its response to injustice is more measured, more thoughtful. Not all of the mixing of genres is successful on Year Of The Crow, but that doesn't mean State Radio should be shut down. Turn it on if you're heading to a rally.